BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- With the passing of Senator John McCain Saturday afternoon, hundreds of politicians, colleagues and friends released messages of condolences for his family and respect for a politician who was not afraid to reach across the aisle and defy the party line when it differed from his own principles.
Chuck Grassley (R-IA) admired the ‘maverick’ politician for his independence and iron will in serving his country as a member of the Navy, as well as a politician. Grassley served with McCain in the United States Senate for 32 years. WBZ NewsRadio’s Jon Mclean spoke with Senator Grassley Saturday night to get his reaction to the passing of his friend and colleague.
“A great American has died and we all give our love and affection and remembrance and thoughts to support the family at this particular hard time,” Grassley said. “I think he was a bright example of a very strong naval person, with five years of his life as a prisoner of war sacrificing, but not changing, the grit he had as a sailor.”
Grassley described the late senator as an independent voice, a man who held his own principles above his allegiances to a political party.
“He fought for everything he believed in,” Grassley said. “First of all, representing the people of Arizona. Secondly, being an independent voice in the United States Senate. Regardless of a Democrat or Republican president, he held his ground and principals against either one. He was a perfect example of what a senator should be – an independent voice, independent of party, but sticking with your principles and representing the people of your state.”
To Grassley, McCain was a shining example of a politician who understood, from experience, what it takes to keep a country safe, and who stood up for veterans as one of their own.
“I respected his leadership as both a member, then chairman, of the [Senate] Armed Services Committee,” Grassley said. “He was kind of a lighthouse for me on things that are the number one responsibility of the federal government – the national defense of the American people. Since I was never in the military, it was all the more important to have a person you could respect from the experience he had as both a sailor, particularly as a prisoner of war, and then as an outstanding senator - a very strong voice for people in uniform and for the veterans.”
The strength Grassley knew in McCain never faltered. Even as McCain’s health began to decline, Grassley said his fellow senator’s will and charisma did not follow.
“The last time I saw John McCain was just before Christmas last year, and the usual greeting that he gave me, as he was in a wheelchair, at that point, was as full of vim and vigor as he was when he was well,” Grassley said. “He, generally, said two things to me that were very close to Iowa and something he learned as a candidate for President of the United States - his reflecting on the slogan of the John Deere company, ‘Nothing Runs Like a Deere.’ Many times he would greet me [with] ‘Nothing Runs Like a Deere’ and then, other times, he would say to me, because he knows ethanol is a big thing in the state of Iowa, he would jokingly say to me, ‘well, I had my glass of ethanol for breakfast this morning.’”
As for McCain’s family, Grassley said that they can hold their heads high, in this tough time, knowing that their loved one was an outstanding American that sacrificed so much of himself for his country.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with you,” Grassley said, in a message to the family. “We know it’s got to be a tough time, as the last year has been tough for you, but you can be proud of your father and your husband for being a great American and putting the good of the country ahead of everything else.”
PHOTO: Getty Images